Joseph Conrad: Nostromo


THROUGH good and evil report in the varying fortune of that
struggle which Don Jose had characterized in the phrase, "the
fate of national honesty trembles in the balance," the Gould
Concession, "Imperium in Imperio," had gone on working; the
square mountain had gone on pouring its treasure down the wooden
shoots to the unresting batteries of stamps; the lights of San
Tome had twinkled night after night upon the great, limitless
shadow of the Campo; every three months the silver escort had
gone down to the sea as if neither the war nor its consequences
could ever affect the ancient Occidental State secluded beyond
its high barrier of the Cordillera. All the fighting took place
on the other side of that mighty wall of serrated peaks lorded
over by the white dome of Higuerota and as yet unbreached by the
railway, of which only the first part, the easy Campo part from
Sulaco to the Ivie Valley at the foot of the pass, had been laid.
Neither did the telegraph line cross the mountains yet; its
poles, like slender beacons on the plain, penetrated into the
forest fringe of the foot-hills cut by the deep avenue of the
track; and its wire ended abruptly in the construction camp at a
white deal table supporting a Morse apparatus, in a long hut of
planks with a corrugated iron roof overshadowed by gigantic cedar
trees--the quarters of the engineer in charge of the advance

The harbour was busy, too, with the traffic in railway material,
and with the movements of troops along the coast. The O.S.N.
Company found much occupation for its fleet. Costaguana had no
navy, and, apart from a few coastguard cutters, there were no
national ships except a couple of old merchant steamers used as

Captain Mitchell, feeling more and more in the thick of history,
found time for an hour or so during an afternoon in the
drawing-room of the Casa Gould, where, with a strange ignorance
of the real forces at work around him, he professed himself
delighted to get away from the strain of affairs. He did not know
what he would have done without his invaluable Nostromo, he
declared. Those confounded Costaguana politics gave him more
work--he confided to Mrs. Gould--than he had bargained for.

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